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Jewish Prayer and Study

Jews feel that each new day is the most important time. Even the ordinary workday is holy, because it is filled with opportunities for the performance of mitzvot and good works. Jews believe that God judges people on how they behave from moment to moment. Therefore, Jews strive to make their lives worthy by treating others as equals, by seeing the good in everyone they meet, and by trying to find enough reasons to say one hundred blessings a day! Even in hard times, the sages of the Talmud taught, Jews should seek to pursue happiness; and the sages added, "In the world to come, a Jew will be punished for not taking advantage of life's pleasures."

Traditionally, Jews use certain rituals on a daily basis, too. Some of these are: putting on the tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries which are two small leather boxes containing verses from the Bible that remind Jews of their duties -- one worn on the forehead and one on the arm), praying three times a day, and keeping the dietary laws called kashrut.

The dietary laws prohibit the eating of many different kinds of meat and fish, especially ham, pork, bacon, and shellfish. They also include instructions for slaughtering and preparing meat in a way called kosher ("proper"), in which all traces of blood are removed. In a sense, the dietary laws remind Jews of the natural order of the world, in which each species must feed on other species -- whether animal or vegetable. So every meal is offered up as a kind of sacrifice to the creator, who designed the world to sustain itself in this way.

To further remind them of this fact, Jews are also instructed to recite a blessing thanking God for food before each meal; and another, longer blessing praising God for providing enough food for the whole world after each meal.

JEWISH PRAYER

As is easily seen, Jewish prayer is an aid to developing a meritorious attitude, and a commendable way of feeling. Therefore, Jews actively seek reasons to praise God's creation. There are Jewish prayers to be said when witnessing a falling star, when hearing the clap of thunder in the clouds, when seeing a rainbow, when noticing the first bud of spring on the branch of a tree, when placing a mezzuzah (a decorative box containing portions of the most important Jewish prayer, the Shema) on a doorpost, when sitting in the sukkah at Sukkot, and even when seeing a very tall or extremely short person.

Jewish prayers are usually recited in Hebrew. Yet, they can be recited in any vernacular or local language, whether it is Yiddish, Aramaic, French, English, Spanish, or Russian. Jews believe that God understands no matter what language a person employs in prayer. Even silence is sometimes said to be an appropriate Jewish prayer language.

Basic Judaism--Keyterms: Jewish, jewish, Jews, jews, Judaism, judaism, Jewish beliefs, Jewish observances, Jewish holidays, Jewish holy days, Jewish history, Rossel, rossel, Seymour Rossel, seymour rossel, beliefs, belief, observances, holy days, holidays, prayer, study, professions, history, past, future, basic, introduction, customs, ceremonies, modern, movements, Moses, monotheism, faith, philosophy, Hasidism, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Torah, prayer, study, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, Jewish law, reference, WannaLearn award, ritualThe most important of all Jewish prayers is a prayer called the Shema. Strangely enough, the Shema is a prayer that speaks to the Jewish people, and not to God. Its verses instruct the Israelites (the prayer is from the Torah even before the term "Jew" was used for the Jewish people) what they have to do. Here is a part of the Shema prayer:

Hear, O Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One.
Blessed be Godís Name and glorious kingdom forever and ever.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I [God] teach you this day, shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder before your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

In just this one paragraph of the Shema prayer, it is possible to understand why Jews designed the tefillin (phylacteries) to place as symbols on the head (above the eyes) and on the arm; and why most Jews place a mezzuzah on the doorpost of their houses to remind them of God.

STUDY

A large part of a full Jewish life is allotted to study. The Jewish heritage and tradition grows constantly more complex and involved, and studying it can become the work of a lifetime. Students have actually been known to devote themselves full time to the study of the books known as the Talmud. The Talmud contains the collected discussions of the generations of rabbis and sages who lived from approximately 200 B.C.E. to 600 C.E. In its seven hundred years of collected teachings, the Talmud records the search for a way of life based on the Bible and the Jewish heritage.

Due to the high value they place on learning, most Jewish parents wish to give their children a Jewish education. Jewish children sometimes find themselves enrolled in Jewish day schools instead of public schools, or attending afternoon or Sunday religious schools in addition to public schooling. Religious schooling usually consists of the study of the Hebrew language, Jewish holy days and rituals, the Jewish prayerbook, the Bible, selections from the Talmud and from the Midrash (a body of literature made up of stories, commentaries, and legal discussions surrounding the text of the Bible), the texts of Bible commentaries and legal codes written through the ages, and studies about the history of the Jewish people, the Holy Land of Israel and its modern Jewish state, and other Jewish communities today.

A person may study Judaism deeply and never become a rabbi. Most Jews continue their study of Judaism in one way or another throughout their lives. In Jewish circles, this is referred to as "study for its own sake" and is thought to be especially meritorious. Indeed, many scholars who devote themselves to Jewish studies refuse to become rabbis since the tasks of a rabbi might occupy so much of their time that they would have little opportunity left for learning. Such scholars may teach others or, like other Jews, they may choose merely to continue their studies for their own enjoyment and enlightenment.

 


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Contact Info: Rabbi Seymour Rossel, 11711 Smoketree Rd., Potomac, MD 20854, (713) 726-9520